Directed by Helen Jane Camp, the cast had the unenviable task of creating characters from a script that was most famously brought to life as the first episode of the 1990s TV series starring David Jason, Pam Ferris and Catherine Zeta Jones.
If the TV series brought a sense of warmth and good cheer in a time of recession, now is the perfick timing for presenting the stage play, allowing loveable rogue Pop Larkin the chance to woo taxman Cedric ‘Charley’ Charlton with his generosity, country life and beautiful daughter.
Andy Killen and Rachel Saturley headed the cast as Pop and Ma Larkin. With characters that are larger than life, they create a home that anyone would want to be a part of. Killen presents a character who relishes every trip to the drink cabinet, every kiss and every “Perfick!” whilst Saturley offers something of a calm sanity in the middle of events. She is at all times warm and full of cheer, with her family around her and plenty of food on the table.
In support were Vicky Nagy as Mariette and Ben Moseby as Charley. They quickly created a charming couple, in their own ways both awkward and attractive together. They were always at the centre of the comedy, with a touching romance that was at its funniest during a scene where Pop gets Charley drunk on a selection of cocktails. Moseby persuades with every fall, whether through intoxication or hiding from his employer under the table.
For comedy though, one need look no further than the full Larkin family. This production had a cast of young actors who made the play something very special. The Larkin children were played by Harry Bower, Millie Cole, Emily Craft, Georgia Burke and Kaia Pilbeam Camp, and as a collection of players, they were always in character and delightfully watchable, particularly during the meal scenes around the table.
The stage was divided in two, half in the house and half outdoors, which was used to great effect in a party scene in the second act. As the whole cast attend the party, the stage is very busy, with the majority of the dialogue being delivered on the ‘outside’ half of the set. Yet the really interesting business was happening inside, as the children and guests are actively involved in the party. Whilst not distracting, there were a number of stories playing out with interest – most amusingly Faith Saturley as Pauline Jackson, clearly bored by the whole event, sat back to back with Harry Bower’s Montgomery, seemingly considering flirting with each other, but both finding drink a better option.
None of the youngsters are wasted in this scene, with each having a very clear purpose in handing out drinks, mingling with guests and clearing up the empty glasses and it seems strange to say that I lost my way in the plot because I was fascinated by the performances from the supporting cast. As Mariette and Charley dash around trying to find Pop, again it is the conversations the audience are not hearing that look the most interesting and really tell the story.
With so many laughs in this production, and plenty going on throughout, this is an easy play to recommend. Lovely to see such a mix of ages on stage, involved in a story that is only ever uplifting. There is very little conflict in this play – and what conflict there is, is very funny indeed – leaving a story that only spreads cheer. The group may be young, but they know what they’re doing and they’re doing it with gusto!
Last review from the Brixham Theatre: Robinson Crusoe and the Pirates